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Oregon rife with bank robbers.

Byline: Rebecca Nolan The Register-Guard

Oregon ranks 17th in the nation for its rate of bank robberies, burglaries and larcenies, thanks to people such as the Pepper Spray Bandit, the Cowboy Bandit, the Golfer, the Masked Man and the Hooded Woman, nicknames given to the state's top five bank robbers by the FBI agents who are looking for them.

Although some criminals remain on the run, FBI agents and local police officers do a good job of bringing bank robbers to justice. The state solves 61 percent of its bank robberies, just behind Washington state, which boasts a 73 percent resolution rate.

Most of the cases were closed within a month. The others were closed within three months, the FBI said.

Portland leads the way among Oregon cities with 85 reported bank robberies in 2006 and 33 others in the metropolitan area's suburbs. Eugene was home to 24 robberies during the same period, according to FBI statistics released Monday.

Eugene far outpaces Salem, which a couple years ago stole Eugene's spot as Oregon's second-most-populous city. Despite its size, Oregon's capital city had only seven bank robberies last year, just two more than much-smaller city of Springfield.

Eugene police crime analyst Stan Lenhard said the number of bank robberies shot up in 2006. The year before, the city had only 11 such crimes. Lenhard hesitated to identify a cause for the increase.

"We haven't seen this kind of a spike since the 1990s. This is just sort of like how the previous year (2005) we had 12 homicides, which is very unusual for us. It really was just an anomaly for us, because this year (2006) we only had five."

The city had a 13 percent solve rate in 2006, down from 27 percent the year before. Detectives continue to investigate 2006 crimes in the hopes of making arrests.

Overall, Oregon's per capita bank robbery rate was twice that of the country as a whole. The state had 4.9 robberies per 100,000 people, while the entire United States had 2.4 robberies for the same portion of the population.

Oregon is home to the so-called Pepper Spray Bandit, who may be responsible for as many as five robberies in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington.

The man, armed at times with pepper spray, employs the unusual "takeover" style of robbery, in which he announces his intentions to everyone inside the bank. He locks employees and customers in the bathroom before leaving.

In two cases, he rode off on a red bicycle.

The Cowboy Bandit robbed a Bank of America branch in Portland in December. He handed the teller a letter ordering her to tell everyone in the bank that he was robbing it.

Armed with a handgun, he took away employees' cell phones, tore a phone off the wall and locked employees in a break room. He wore a fake beard and moustache, a bandage over his nose and a cowboy hat.

The Golfer robbed a Portland Wells Fargo branch in September. He threatened the teller and demanded cash before leaving on foot. He wore a baseball hat, blue-and-green golf shirt and jeans.

The Masked Man entered a Homestreet Bank in Portland in November wearing a white surgical mask. He announced to everyone in the bank that he was there to rob it. He took cash from two tellers and ran away.

And, rounding out the top five is the Hooded Woman, who robbed a US Bank branch in Portland in December. She threatened to hurt the teller if she didn't hand over the cash.

The woman wore a black winter coat with the hood pulled over much of her face. She drove off in a teal-colored compact car.

The FBI asked that anyone with information about these and other unsolved bank robbery cases call the bureau at (503) 224-4181.


Oregon had 178 bank robberies in 2006 and three bank burglaries, the FBI said Monday.

Friday was the busiest day for bank robberies in Oregon, followed by Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. One-third of bank robberies occurred between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Investigators have identified 189 people involved in last year's robberies. They include 146 white men, 21 black men, eight Hispanic men, nine white women and one black woman. Three others were men of unknown background.

Suspects used a disguise in 23 cases.

Suspects claimed to have a weapon in 75 cases, and actually used handguns 20 times. Robbers claimed to have bombs four times.

Robbers fled on foot in 121 cases, used a getaway car in 39 cases and rode a bicycle in seven cases.

- Federal Bureau of Investigation
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Title Annotation:Crime; The state has twice the national average number of bank robberies per capita, and Eugene's total in 2006 was 3 1/2 times that of larger Salem
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 6, 2007
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